March Forward #4: The Goal Standard

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Spring doesn’t blast away winter in a day. Yet each morning, we see the signs developing: birdcalls filling the air, grass piercing the snow, flowers about to burst open.

So it is with us. Each day defines us and advances us, incrementally, toward achievement. We are what we repeatedly do. Once we have hit upon our needs and desires, we need to articulate them into goals to help kindle motivation and replenish reserve. These goals should be specific, measurable, and realistic—though still challenging—and then pursued with the certainty of success. Toggling between the big picture and the daily calendar represent both sides of the success equation.

Write it down. If it’s not written down, it won’t happen. There’s something powerful, even magical, about the act of committing to something in writing—“putting it out there” before one’s eyes and the eyes of the universe.  It’s a way to up the ante and turn wishes into goals and ultimately affirmations. Writing a “base” (practical) goal and then a “stretch” (aspirational) goal is a worthy idea, with benchmarks set for both scenarios. Each success builds momentum for the next, and each request can get bigger and bigger.

Visualize it. Buy an assortment of glossy magazines and take a pair of scissors to the pages. Cutting out pictures of travel destinations, dream cars, lovely sofas and tailored suits is another way of bringing vivid immediacy to one’s goal. Having one’s aspirations “mapped” in tangible form will help achieve them. After all, a picture is worth one thousand words.

Change your self-talk. Not only every day, but literally every second, opportunities for self-talk manifest: the thoughts and images that pop into one’s head. It is in everyone’s control how to steer that self-talk: into bright light, or into dark shadow. We knew a struggling financial planner who called 350 prospects on his first day on the job, with nothing to show for it. His voice was hoarse; his neck was stiff.  Yet when he walked into the break room, he told a sympathetic colleague he was proud—of the fact he made it through the morning. Energized by the positive spin he’d created, he returned to his desk that afternoon and secured five appointments. Not only had he made it through the afternoon; he was on track to break the firm’s weekly record.

Affirm your “why.” That night, the planner went home and asked his wife to take his children to Sears for a portrait that he could place on his desk next to his phone. Twenty years later, the picture remains a visual reminder of his core beliefs, and a powerful force to channel his self-talk into the right direction.


March Forward #3: Finding your purpose

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

waltIn today’s culture, that Confucian statement endures in fortune cookies, but otherwise flies in the face of society’s attitude toward jobs. The jokes about countdowns to Happy Hour, dreading Monday morning, and needing Lite FM radio to “tune out” of work imply that work is at best a time-filler, at worst a time-waster—just a way to while away the days between camping trips.

But having passion for work is key to living with purpose, and it’s not limited to the elite few who run empires or clinch “dream jobs.” Nor does it mean a job that’s free of challenge, conflict or stress. On the contrary, challenges and setbacks are key to engaging your heart, stretching your mind and igniting your passion. One of the world’s most famous dreamers, Walt Disney, enjoined people to “Think, Dream, Believe and Dare.” The cure for thinking small is to dream big.

Helping others take control of their lives, building something that can change the world, supporting critical missions, creating something of lasting beauty: any job can feed one’s passion, inspiring ways to improve and advance. From entry level to senior executive, it is not the title that counts—but rather, its alignment with core values and passions. Aligning work with passion means matching core values and daily activities. When work is aligned with passion, it confers energy instead of draining it.

One of the most famous career self-help books, What Color is Your Parachute, asks readers key questions such as:

  • What do you give your free time to do?
  • What are your favorite skills?
  • Where do you most enjoy using them?

You might wonder why you deserve success in your career; after all, isn’t it just a way to put food on the table? The better question why you do not deserve it. The belief in limited sources – that one’s gain is another’s loss – is a myth. Playing small doesn’t serve the world; it deprives the world of the benefits derived from one’s true talents. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking one’s potential.

Thinking big is the most powerful—and least utilized—technique on the planet. By fulfilling your passion without hesitation, and thinking without limits, you’ll achieve anything you desire.  In the spirit of spring cleaning and nature’s renewal, we will dedicate the next few blog posts into upgrading your life.


March Forward #2: Discarded Junk Becomes Art

“Litter: it’s blending into the background of our lives. But what if we brought it to the forefront?” – Jeff Kirschner

It’s not just during camping season that we savor the delight of pristine, unspoiled nature.  Whether we’re pitching a tent, roasting dinner, getting our daily step-count in good weather, or just enjoying the view outside the window, we all cringe at the litter that turns landscapes into dumping grounds. On a recent walk in her neighborhood, this blogger found soup and soda cans, plastic cups, chewed straws, crumpled coupons, cigarette butts, and more. And these aren’t just eyesores; they can

What if a community existed to make picking up litter not only worthwhile and productive; but also fun, engaging, and knit into a larger, powerful effort that spanned the globe?

Enter the website Litterati  (literati.org)– a global community that is crowdsourcing cleaning efforts. On the website, users take photos of the litter they pick up—and go on to identify, tag, and even map trends in a region’s “litter profile.”

Litterati’s founder, Jeff Kirschner, drew inspiration for the site when he recalled his days at sleepaway camp. On the morning of visiting day, the director would direct each camper to pick up five pieces of trash. It didn’t take long for the camp to look a whole lot cleaner. Kirschner decided to apply that “crowdsourced cleanup model” to the entire planet. To that end, he took a picture of a cigarette butt. Each time he saw a new piece of litter, he recorded each piece—and picked it up. At the end of just a few days, he had 50 photos of trash he had disposed of. The idea caught on, and soon a photo reached him from a user in China. The users, scattered as they might have been, were creating a community. And by geo-tagging and time-stamping each photo, they helped Kirschner build a Google map to plot points.

This data quickly proved invaluable. When San Francisco wanted to collect information on smoking habits to determine tax rates, they turned to Litterati after pencils and clipboards failed them and provoked outrage by Big Tobacco.

Kirschner says every city in the world has a “unique litter fingerprint” – from coffee cups to soda cans to plastic bottles. In Oakland, most of the litter in a blighted area stemmed from a well-known taco brand’s hot sauce packets. So to cut to the heart of the problem, the brand could give out hot sauce only upon request, or install bulk dispensers. Recently, in Oakland’s hills, a user found a Coke can with a vintage design. It had been perfectly preserved since 1966, and points up questions about minimal or more eco-friendly packaging.

If you’re counting the days till camping season, try geo-tagging your litter to observe your positive impact on the planet in real-time!


March Forward #1: Can You Hear Me Now?

Communication is tricky, even face-to-face; even without poor cell reception; even between two people who speak the same language.

The definition is simple: any exchange of information, verbal and non-verbal, between sender and receiver. But because humans are so fascinatingly complex, it is virtually impossible for us to convey isolated bits of data.

Every time you speak to someone you are revealing yourself—often before you even open your mouth. It’s your tone of voice, pace of speech, or facial expression; the clothes you select and the way you wear your hair. Are you crossing your legs, folding your arms, cocking your head? Are your hands on your hips or in your pocket? Are your palms clenched into fists, or open for a handshake? All of these are messages in themselves—messages about you.

What’s more, the people we address interpret what we share in light of their own beliefs and values.

Sometimes, so many variables and hidden messages accrue—casting both light and shadow over any exchange—that the original information is deeply buried. And yet, expressing how we feel and asking for what we need is key to our emotional and physical health. And communication is the thread that binds and strengthens our relationships. How can we effectively communicate our thoughts, feelings and needs?

Slow down. Take a deep breath to get centered, stay positive and focus on the other person and your connection in the moment. Don’t try to conduct an important conversation while doing something else, even if it’s just folding laundry or making dinner.

Speak the truth from your heart. Don’t rush through it, even if it seems tedious or unpleasant. Slow, steady pacing can lend clarity, coherence and calmness without wasting time.

Learn how to listen deeply. Think about the essence of what you heard, and rephrase in your own words. Try to express empathy: “I hear you.” “Tell me more.” “I’m so grateful you told me.” Says Joan Boysenko, Ph.D: “One of the most important ways that we can show respect and love is by carefully listening while another speaks.” Allow the speaker time to fine-tune; and only respond when the speaker seems heard. Listen for the natural pause that implies completion.

Avoid interruptions. No matter how important we believe our contribution is, interrupting squelches the flow of energy and sends a powerful non-verbal message that our thoughts and feelings trump the ones they’re struggling to share.